FAQ: How Many Hours a Day Can Truck Drivers Drive?

  • May 9, 2024
  • Michael Kapuschinsky
  • Approx. Read Time: 7 Minutes
Driver iQ. FAQ: Driver HOS Limits.

Millions of commercial truck drivers transport goods, materials, and equipment every day. These drivers are key to the success of the U.S. economy.

Due to the large number of truckers on the road at any given time, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has rules and regulations in place to protect truck drivers and other motorists. Some of these rules limit the number of hours truck drivers can drive before taking a break.  

As a truck driver or manager of a trucking company, understanding these limits is critical. This article provides more details about FMCSA regulations and answers the question, “How long can truck drivers drive?”



Key Takeaways:

Here are the key things you need to know about hours of service (HOS) rules for commercial truck drivers.

        • FMCSA set clear limits on the number of hours truck drivers can drive within a specific time frame and how long of a break they must take before starting to drive again.
        • Driving limits for truckers are in place to protect the drivers and other motorists while promoting conformity within the trucking industry.
        • Failure to comply with FMCSA rules and regulations can result in hefty fines ranging up to $16,000 or more or put your driver out of service until they take the appropriate break.
        • FMCSA does allow for some exemptions for various factors, such as road conditions, team drivers, and yard moves.
        • A partnership with Driver iQ ensures you’re hiring qualified truck drivers and provides ongoing CDL license monitoring.


Table of Contents

  1. What are the 5 Essential Hours of Service Rules?
  2. Why is Following the Hours of Service Rules Important?
  3. Understanding the 4 Required Driver Log Duty Statuses
  4. 6 Exceptions for Hours of Service rules
  5. Secure Your Fleet's Reputation and Operational Integrity with Driver iQ


What are the 5 Essential Hours of Service Rules?

Commercial truck drivers must follow all federal hours of service (HOS) regulations or risk hefty fines and penalties. These rules dictate the number of hours a driver can drive and how often they must take breaks.

While there are some exceptions, regulations regarding HOS for drivers stipulate that truckers cannot drive more than 11 hours within a 14-hour window. Once a driver hits the maximum driving time, they must take at least a 10-hour break.

HOS regulations also limit the number of weekly hours to 60 hours within a 7-day period or 70 hours within an 8-day period. Commercial truck drivers must keep a log to track their driving hours and breaks.

These regulations are broken down into five essential HOS rules for truckers. The table below provides a brief overview of these rules, followed by a more detailed explanation.

TABLE - BLOG_ FAQ_ How Many Hours a Day Can Truck Drivers Drive_

1. 11-Hour Rule

Commercial truck drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving time before they must take a break.


2. 14-Hour Rule

Truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours within a 14-hour window before they must take a 10-hour break. This rule also requires drivers to take at least a 30-minute break after driving for 8 hours.  


3. 10-Hour Break

HOS regulations also dictate how drivers can spend their 10-hour break. They have three options, including:

    • Spend 10 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth of their truck.
    • Take 10 consecutive hours of personal time.
    • Spend a combination of time in the sleeper berth and enjoy personal time. These hours must equal 10 consecutive hours.


4. 60/70-Hour Limit

Regulations also limit the number of hours on-duty truckers can drive for 60 hours within a 7-day period or 70 hours within an 8-day period.


5. 34-Hour Restart

Truck drivers can restart the 60/70 time clock at any time by taking a 34-hour break in the sleeping berth or enjoying personal time. Once the 34-hour break is over, the 60/70-hour limits start over.


Recommended Reading: Drug Testing Requirements for CDL Drivers


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


Why is Following the Hours of Service Rules Important?

HOS rules are not a suggestion—they’re a requirement designed to keep truckers and other motorists safe on the road. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines and penalties for the driver and the trucking company.  


Penalties for Violating HOS Rules

Violating any HOS rule could result in hefty fines ranging from $1,000 to $16,000 or more, depending on the severity. Truck drivers may also be put out of service until they come into compliance, meaning they must take a break for 10 to 34 hours.

Additionally, trucking companies risk receiving points against their Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score.


Drive 1


Understanding the 4 Required Driver Log Duty Statuses

Unless exempt, truck drivers must keep a log of all on-duty and off-duty hours to ensure compliance. Typically, trucking companies use electronic logs to track these hours, but it’s the truck driver’s responsibility to accurately report these hours in real time.

Electronic logs use four duty statuses, including:


1. Off Duty 

This includes all hours spent off duty. Drivers are not working during this time, nor are they required to be ready to work. Instead, they can spend this time freely.


2. Sleeper Berth

It’s not uncommon for long-haul truck drivers to rest in their sleeper berths. This can be done during their 30-minute, 10-hour, or 36-hour break, but it must be recorded properly.


3. Driving 

This includes any time the driver spends behind the wheel of the truck. It’s crucial for truck drivers to accurately report their driving start and stop times to remain in compliance.


4. On Duty Not Driving 

As the name suggests, this includes the time the driver is on duty but not behind the wheel of the truck. For example, the driver may be loading or unloading cargo, conducting a pre-trip inspection, or putting fuel in the truck.

While these hours count towards compensation, they aren’t recorded as driving time. These hours can count towards the 30-minute break required after 8 hours of driving time, as long as it’s 30 consecutive minutes.  


Recommended Reading: Level 1 DOT Inspection Checklist


Drive 2


6 Exceptions for Hours of Service Rules

Just like all regulations, there are exceptions to the HOS for CDL driver rules. Drivers should understand the exceptions in case they face these specific situations while on duty.


1. Team Drivers

The first set of exceptions for HOS rules pertains only to teams of drivers. When traveling with two or more drivers, the off-duty driver can spend up to 2 hours of their required break in the passenger seat of the truck.

As with all hours, drivers must track the amount of time spent in the passenger seat to ensure compliance.


2. Personal Conveyance

Truck drivers are exempt from HOS rules if they are driving a commercial motor vehicle while they are off duty and using the vehicle for personal transportation. The driver must be relieved from all work duties during this time.

Examples of personal conveyance travel include going to and from the driver's home or stopping at a restaurant or hotel while en route.

Note: This requires oversight to ensure the driver meets the requirements for Personal Conveyance.


3. Yard Moves

Any driving hours done in limited access yards or lots can be logged as ‘on duty, not driving’ hours. Tracking this time correctly is important and can impact driving time.

Remember, ‘on duty not driving’ hours can count towards the required 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving.


4. Short-Haul Exemption

This exemption is for short-haul truck drivers—those who regularly work within a 150-air-mile radius of their main terminal. Drivers must also start and end their trip at the same terminal and complete their run within a 14-hour window to qualify for this exemption.

Drivers meeting these requirements may be exempt from keeping logs and can record daily hours instead.


5. Adverse Driving Conditions

FMCSA HOS regulations offer special provisions when drivers face adverse conditions, such as snow, sleet, ice, or fog, that impact road conditions.

Under these conditions, drivers can extend their driving time by up to 2 hours. This extra time gives drivers the opportunity to manage these conditions or find a safe place to pull over.  


6. Direct Emergency Assistance

Exceptions are also put in place for emergency situations, including federal and state of emergencies. In these instances, drivers can complete their run even if it exceeds their HOS driving hour limits.


Staying in compliance with all FMCSA rules and regulations pertaining to HOS hours can keep you and other drivers safe on the road. Compliance can also help you and your employer avoid hefty fines and penalties or being put out of service, which can significantly impact delivery times.

In addition to understanding these rules and knowing how long drivers can drive, truckers must also accurately log all on-duty and off-duty hours.


Recommended Reading: Recruiting Truck Drivers


Secure Your Fleet's Reputation and Operational Integrity with Driver iQ

FMCSA HOS compliance starts with building the best team of drivers. Driver iQ’s numerous services, such as applicant screening, driving record tracking, and past employment verification, provide the insights you need to make informed hiring decisions.   

Driver iQ’s support doesn’t stop there. We also offer ongoing license monitoring in all 50 states to ensure your drivers remain in compliance.

Speak to an expert today to learn more about our Driver iQ services or book a demo and find out for yourself everything our platform has to offer.


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


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